December 3, 2015

Systems Biology Based Diagnosis of Circulating Lung Tumor Cells

Gunnar Boysen, Ph.D.

Gunnar Boysen, Ph.D.

A UAMS research project is exploring how the special characteristics of growing lung cancer cells might be used to increase the effectiveness of individualized therapies to halt the disease.

Gunnar Boysen, Ph.D., is lead investigator on the project,  “Systems Biology Based Diagnosis of Circulating Lung Tumor Cells,” and Rosalind Penney, Ph.D., is co-investigator. Boysen    and Penney  are faculty in the Department  of Environmental and Occupational Health in the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public  Health.

The project’s aim is to maximize the effectiveness of new lung cancer therapies that target the metabolic processes within a tumor cell. Scientists believe that a tumor’s cell metabolism changes as a cancer advances, and disruption of these processes can help slow or stop a cancer’s spread.

“We have constructed a method that determines which metabolic pathways are targeted by various therapy regimens and want to find out if these metabolic changes can lead to the development of personalized medicine,” Boysen said.

Cancer cells collected from the patients at UAMS will be analyzed to understand a tumor’s metabolic properties relative to the type and stage of the cancer, how fast it is spreading, and the patient’s survival.

If successful, these findings will make it possible to develop clinical biomarkers that can be used to personalize therapies.

Eric Siegel, research associate in the UAMS Department of Biostatistics, and Daniel Sappington, Ph.D. candidate, are also on the project.